by Andy Roberts -
Number of replies: 5
I found a critical appraisal of knowing knowlege which may perhaps help to raise  some issues here, or at least give George something to get his teeth into..

Ron Lubensky's blog:

I'll just highlight a couple of paragraphs which caught my eye

"In a recent online seminar discussing the book (I won't cite it), participants were asking how Connectivism can influence their instructional design. The answer is that Connectivism prescribes that learning shouldn't be designed at all--instruction is futile!"

"..but people who have an interest in and preference to the power structures, patterns of life and habits of thought that Connectivism contests may dismiss this treatise as just another socialist manifesto substituting knowledge for capital."

"Whilst Siemens is generous to those in the blogosphere who have supported his ideas, he seems to have chosen to ignore those in traditional academic circles."
In reply to Andy Roberts

Re: critics

by Ron Lubensky -
Hi Andy, thanks for noting my post so quickly.

Like resistance, I admit to dramatically overstating the futility of instruction. This reflects more my own frustration as a producer of corporate elearning resources. Many cite Sfard (1998) who suggested that both acquisitional and participatory approaches are necessary.

Yes, this SCoPE forum is the one to which I referred. I felt it improper to be critical without coming here first, so here I am. I stand by my assertion that even members of the elearning development community are challenged to embrace a plurality of conceptualisations about learning.

As I am witness, this comes largely through lack of exposure to new ideas. Educational research speaks primarily to their own community and often fails to get the good message out. George, on the other hand, has succeeded brilliantly using the very connectivity that he promotes.

As a practitioner for over a decade, it was only after returning to university recently that my eyes have been opened to different learning approaches. Constructivism has been around for decades, yet the very idea that employees, students or citizens can choose how to make sense of new domains (with scaffolding and facilitation) is routinely rejected. Like Connectivism, it runs up against the prevailing view that knowledge is a precious object that requires control and careful dissemination.
In reply to Ron Lubensky

Re: critics

by George Siemens -
Hi Ron...good point about members of our elearning community being challenged to embrace new conceptualizations of learning.

I cannot think of many spaces that I have encountered which provide the rich, random, chaotic exchange of new ideas and viewpoints that blogs do. My fascination with network views of learning arose largely in the space of blogging. Even now, I often receive emails from individuals with no history in learning theory who state that connectivism feels intuitive because it reflects how they learn with blogs, wikis, google, etc. That assertion doesn't make a valid learning theory, but it reflects a bit of trend I've noticed when I present on connectivism: people who are active online, playing with new tools and approaches to knowledge are less antagonistic to connectivism than are individuals who are more traditional in reading journals, etc. Like most everything in life - understanding of a concept is much easier when it is lived or personally experienced.
In reply to Ron Lubensky

Re: critics

by Jeffrey Keefer -

Ron, I really liked your concept that "knowledge is a precious object that requires control and careful dissemination."

This recalls some academic work I have done using the qualitative methodology autoethnography. I have done some writing that traces my worldview as transitioning from positivism to constructivism. I used to think that knowledge was that precious je ne sais quoi, that which is beyond interpretation and evident to people in similar ways if they try hard enough to gain it.

Looking back at that now, I am wondering if this is just not another way of protecting the views and interests of the majority, in whatever community or organization or group we are considering. In this case, knowledge, understood in only one established way, maintains the status quo.

In reply to Jeffrey Keefer

Re: critics

by Ron Lubensky -
Hi Jeffrey,

I think there are three things here.
  1. The objective nature of Knowledge--positivist, postpositivist, anti-positivist...
    I didn't think that Connectivity demanded an epistemological stance?
  2. How we may learn--instructivist, constructivist,...
    As George has instructed, Connectivism doesn't specify whether learning is pushed or pulled. Rather it is about evolving relationships and discourse between people and other agents of knowledge. It is better to learn how to access knowledge than to just try to internalise it all.
    Today I got somebody in to clean our carpets. Through experience and anecdotes, I have come to know enough to choose between steam and dry cleaning, to recognise competent work and to pay a market price, deflecting the usual up-sell of the exclusive (!) spot cleaner. The serviceman runs the machines, I trust his expertise. He depends on me for entry into the house, instructions on which rooms to do and where to get water. He trusts me to pay him when he is finished the work. The knowledge domain is distributed and negotiated.
  3. Knowledge and power
    As I implied earlier, I perceived Connectivism as a critical theory (ie. about knowledge and power). This suits my politics, but not everyone's. George has responded by providing justification for people to step back from a compulsive "need to know/control everything" mentality. But knowledge and personal identity are so enmeshed.
My brain hurts :-)
In reply to Andy Roberts

Re: critics

by George Siemens -
Hi Andy - always nice to see critiques and dissenting views. Thanks for posting this here. I have responded to Ron on his blog...

The first comment - i.e. structure I think is attended to in Ron's reply in this forum and online...

With regard to the second quote - I think some will dismiss connectivism as just another manifesto (or, as one blogger posted it months ago "siemens is a light weight theoriest" because I didn't rely on traditional texts for building my argument). Others have suggested that I promote connectivism for the sake of my own ego. And so on. I personally am less concerned with whether I am credited than I am with improving the educational systems that will serve my children (and generations to follow). Whether individuals agree or disagree with connectivism (and their are alternative views, with varying levels of similarity - Bereiter as Ron well as Brown's "Navigationism". In terms of learning theory, I don't this we are at a "beta vs VHS" level. Take my views or leave them. Just change the system so it works for the the complex problems of today are attended to.

I'm providing one answer to the problem I see emerging. Others have lead already with their answers...and yet others will follow. Some will capture the problem more broadly in academic terms. Others will appeal to emotion. Some will build from practice. Others from theory.

So what is the problem I'm seeing? A few considerations:
  • Information growth far beyond our ability to cognitively manage
  • Growing diversity of viewpoints and beliefs - not easily reconcilable in models of learning as constructions (whereas learning as a network permits the inclusion of diverse entities with less reliance on resolving "cognitive dissonance").
  • Growing complexity - we are dealing with big problems today - global warming, poverty, HIV/AIDS, etc. A network view of learning and functioning affords, in my eyes, greater capacity for collaboration and innovation (constructivism/constructionism acknowledge similar concerns of comprehension and multi-faceted perspectives, but moves toward reconciliation too soon...and in the process of constructing a framework of comprehending, leaves many elements unattended (i.e. the act of knowing also involves "deselecting" many viewpoints)). I'm promoting a network of diverse, contradictory, complex, almost chaotic elements. Learning is beyond personal knowledge...much like Vygotsky and others have suggested, it is culturally situated...which leads to the view of knowledge as meaning different things in different contexts
  • Technology - perhaps more than anything else - is changing how we think, what we are capable of, how we communicate, how we function. Technology is more than just an extension. It is becoming us.
The final point you raise from Ron's post relates to the individuals I quote and source in the book. First, I think you'll find that I was much more generous than I usually am to non-web-based sources :). I intentionally included traditional sources. If I'm being criticized for excluding as source (Bereiter), that is very different from being criticized for my methodology of writing and researching as a whole. If I excluded authors individuals feel I shouldn't have, that's fine (and accurate). If I'm criticized because I used web-based resources, I think my works cited page will refute that assertion without any additional comment from me here.

(though it is worth noting that all the "cool conversations" are going on online, not in journals. By the time academic journals get to writing about blogs, they five years behind when we first starting talking about them online. or podcasting. or second life.)